Hot Take: Am I being too critical of The Edge of Seventeen because the trailer led me to believe the film would have a different tone? Maybe.
Things got away from me this month and there was not a November preview of potential movie releases. The Edge of Seventeen would have been one of the most anticipated releases. The trailer was one of the funniest of the year and set expectations on the film that turned out to be unrealistic given the film’s approach to what essentially was a coming-of-age high school dramedy about the struggles of being a socially awkward teen.
As I look back on the movie, it gets better in retrospect. Hailee Steinfeld plays Nadine, the smart, sarcastic, socially challenged teen who is the sister of Darian (Blake Jenner), the most popular kid in school. She had a great relationship with her father (Eric Keenleyside) who we find out died of a heart attack which put the spotlight on her rocky relationship with her mother (Kyra Sedgwick). Her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) has complicated her life even more by sleeping with her brother and the only adult in her life she seems to be able to talk to, her teacher (Woody Harrelson), doesn’t seem to care.
The storytelling aspect of The Edge of Seventeen is superb. Writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig has done a great job of crafting a relatable high school tale. The only downside is the trailer doesn’t reveal the heartfelt side of the film. It relies on getting you in the seat by showing the film’s funniest moments. This takes away from some of the comedy as you’ve seen the most hilarious parts before entering the theater. It’s something that shouldn’t be held against the quality of the film, overall, but it’s hard not to expect it to be funnier.
That being said, Hailee Steinfeld impresses as Nadine. It’s easy to find empathy with her struggles with teenage life and even in her most annoying, self-involved moments, her character beats herself up for how she’s acting. Steinfeld portrays this effectively and it’s easy to buy her in the role. Her moments with Hayden Szeto who plays Erwin are the best of the film. Wrapped up in her own world, Nadine doesn’t even consider Erwin more than a friend but it’s obvious Erwin likes her beyond friendship. The pair have great chemistry on screen.
Woody Harrelson deserves high marks for his role as Mr. Bruner, Nadine’s teacher. The pair share some of the funniest scenes which have been highlighted in the trailer but some of the film’s more poignant ones, as well. Harrelson’s character acts as a mirror for Nadine whose most self-centered, insensitive moments play out in the presence of Mr. Bruner who handles them with humor, wit and a sense of honesty that snaps Nadine back to reality.
The Edge of Seventeen is not perfect. As the film progresses, the less traveled roads find their way back to a more familiar one which leads to a rather predictable third act. However, the performances and the sharp, witty writing keep this one a notch above your typical coming of age film. Plus, it thrusts Steinfeld into a brighter future and launches Szeto as an actor to watch.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
Maybe it’s more a credit to Steinfeld than anything but, across the board, the actors in The Edge of Seventeen have great on-screen chemistry. The performances are believable even when some of the actors look like they’ve been in high school a few years too long. The average age of the four main actors portraying high school juniors and seniors is 23.75. (Szeto is 31!)
- Social Studies
Those awkward high school moments are brilliantly brought to life and cringe-worthy throughout their reenactment.
- Current Events
The film does enough to update the high school tale to a more modern look without obsessing over the selfie culture we live in today. There’s plenty of timely references to social media but the movie never dwells on those aspects or find some cutesy way to enact them on screen. (See Nerve or How to Be Single for that.)
“Spoiler Free” Cons
It took a while to get adjusted to the film’s tone as the trailer led me to expect something different. It’s not a particularly bad thing but missed expectations can lead to some disappointment even when the overall result is positive.